Saturday, August 27, 2016

Book Review: Personal by Lee Child

Maybe A Challenge Too Far?

Personal is one of the Jack Reacher series, for those readers of Lee Child who might be reading this review.  And as such, the main protagonist, Reacher, takes on nearly impossible odds, using his considerable analytic and street-fighting skills to…well, if I tell you the outcome, you won’t need to read the book, right?

In the first third or so of the book, I thought this might end up being my favorite Reacher story of all time, and I have read a lot of them.  But by the end, I can say it was OK, but certainly not top of my list.  As always, I enjoyed the action.  The way Reacher analyzes each brawl, punch by counter-punch, is always interesting.  And as always, I greatly enjoyed the way he dissected the situation, finding patterns and conclusions where I might have seen half of them (giving myself the benefit of the doubt).  And as is often the case, Child left a final twist that I had pretty much overlooked…until Reacher laid it out.  It was a typical Reacher story, well done…for the most part.

My quibbles are small, but concerning.  First, the initial text, and the dialog in particular, was terse.  He kept mentioning the ‘Socratic Method’ in these quick-hitting, back-and-forth exchanges.  Initially, it seemed OK, but as the plot unfolded, it seemed to be more meandering, less pithy, and as a result, the story became a bit tedious.  Later, as the tension built, it seemed that Child transitioned to longer, more complex prose and dialog.  I am not sure if this is a specific technique to show or produce a feeling of urgency, but it seemed to help some.

Second, Reacher always faces long odds.  It’s part of his appeal – to pull off victories in the face on nearly insurmountable obstacles.  But in this case, the opposition seemed so broad, varied, and capable – well, it stretched the bounds of credibility just a bit too much.  Obviously, this is a fine line, but one that Child seemed to cross in the case of this story.
So, if you're a Reacher fan, or a fan of action thrillers where analytic skills and street smarts are pitted against Herculean challenges, you'll get enjoyment from Personal.

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